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Permitted development (no planning permission required) near existing trees

Even if your building works do not require planning permission they may require a tree works or hedgerow application if they have statutory protection through the conservation area, Tree Preservation Orders or Hedgerow Regulations.

Permitted development allows improvement and extension of homes without the need for a planning application. If you are not sure if your proposed works need planning permission or not, please use the Planning PortalIf a project doesn’t fit into one of these categories, please contact the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning team for advice.

Even if your work does not require planning permission, you must still consider the impact your work may have on trees. If your work will affect trees that sit in a conservation area or are covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), you must not carry out any work on them without our authorisation.

Hedgerows can also be protected.

Trees increase a properties and neighbourhood’s environmental, aesthetic and economic value, therefore it is worth keeping them healthy and happy.

If the building works involve cutting any above (stem, trunk, branches) or below ground parts (roots) within or adjacent to the site you will require permission through a tree works application or notification. Please visit our Tree Preservation Orders or Trees in conservation area pages.

If there are protected trees (TPO or conservation area) on or adjacent to site, which might be affected by the works, this makes your project more complex. You may want to seek professional advice.

The Hedgerows Regulations (1997) protect hedgerows, especially in the countryside. You could get a fine up to £5,000 if you break the rules for removing them. In serious cases you could get an unlimited fine for removing hedgerows in cases referred to the Crown Court.

For more information go to the government website Countryside hedgerows: protection and management.

More detailed information can also be found at Hedgerows, retention and replacement notices: the appeal procedures.

If you need to inform the council of a hedgerow removal notice, this can be submitted via the Planning Portal.

If the trees are sited in a conservation area or have a TPO on them you do need to consider what you are doing more thoroughly. If you need to cut above or below ground parts this will need a tree works application.

It’s always best to be considerate to neighbours and let them know you are being thoughtful about their trees before works start. Give extra attention to:

  • any vehicular access points or driveways to the site, temporary or permanent,
  • trees which overhang the development site, or
  • stand on adjacent land within a distance of up to 12 times their estimated stem diameter at 1.5m in height.

Anyone who undertakes works on, in or around a tree or hedgerow which could damage it has a duty of care to leave the tree or hedgerow in a safe condition and not create a danger to people or property.

Above ground:

  • inappropriate or severe pruning,
  • hit by vehicles, plant equipment and demolition materials,
  • bonfires, and
  • attaching CCTV, lights and other objects to trees.


Below ground:

  • soil compaction through storing materials/porta cabins/facilities, vehicular parking, plant equipment moving around site,
  • severing roots,
  • removing hard surfaces, unwanted foundations and other demolition,
  • installing inappropriate foundations and utilities,
  • increasing or decreasing soil levels,
  • stacking top soil for later use, and
  • waste water with chemicals in from washing equipment and vehicles.

No. Building Control (the statutory standards for construction) take account of trees, even if they have been removed some years before.

Avoiding going near any trees growing on or adjacent to site s the best way to avoid damaging trees. Tree roots are not always evenly distributed around the tree and can extend beyond the crowns drip line.

To make things simple, measure the diameter of the tree trunk at 1.5 metres above ground level and multiple this figure by 12. This distance will give a suggested area from the tree trunk to avoid. On building sites this is called a ‘construction exclusion zone’. Measure out and mark this area. This is the area you want to avoid working in, or travelling through. If the trees are on neighbouring land, estimate the stem diameter and distance from you boundary and measure out the remaining distance and mark. For example a tree with a tree trunk diameter of 50 centimetres will have an exclusion zone of six metres from the tree trunk (50cm x 12 = 6m).

Any planned building work falling within this exclusion zone radius can be considered to affect the tree(s). The majority of roots which take up water are located in the upper 60 centimetres of soil, so even shallow trenches cause a great deal of damage.

In some instances you might not be able to avoid the entire exclusion zone. If this is the case you may want to employ an arboricultural consultant to carry out a site survey. They could check the health and structural condition of your tree at the same time.

For complex sites it is best to seek professional advice from arboricultural consultants who will provide the necessary information and reports in line with the British Standard and the Council’s own requirements. There are two organisations who offer a searchable registry of consultants:

If the tree requires pruning, consider using a qualified and insured tree surgeon. Not only will they have the right equipment but they will dispose of the arising’s for you. Find the right tree surgeon for you through the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Directory.

The tree trunk can be protected by erecting a physical barrier. This is especially useful where vehicles or plant equipment (even pedestrian) are working in and around, or passing close by, the stem. The size and sturdiness of the barrier depends on the situation. The larger the plant equipment or closer to the tree it is, the greater the barrier size, more colourful and sturdy it should be. Different methods of tree protection can be found via a search engine. If necessary, Herras fence panels can be hired from local stores.

If you need to move materials and vehicles over or through the exclusion zone and not on paths, driveways or patios, protect the soil from compaction by laying a temporary path surface. This will also protect and planting beds or grass and reduce the amount of garden restoration afterwards. Many specialist products are available which temporarily spread loads across a greater area and can be found via a search engine. Some hire shops also stock these.

Don’t try to ‘lose’ soil on your site by stacking it under, or distributing it around the tree’s exclusion zone as it is detrimental to the tree.

If you need to change for example, the soil level or install trenches, this is more complex as you will need specialist advice.